Home Civil Society Voices SIS calls for moratorium on all caning sentences

SIS calls for moratorium on all caning sentences

JUAN PABLO SERRANO ARENAS/ PEXELS

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By Sisters in Islam

In light of the recent case involving Nurfifi Amira Nawi, who became the first woman in Terengganu to be sentenced to caning for “khalwat” (“close proximity”), we express deep concern regarding the implementation of Sharia law, particularly in how it corresponds with the core tenets of fundamental human rights.

The harmony between religious decrees and universal human rights is paramount, and any misalignment is a matter of serious consequences as seen in recent cases.

Article 8 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia guarantees the right to equality, yet the dual legal system in place has led to perceived disparities in the treatment of Muslim and non-Muslim women. This raises questions about the fairness and uniformity of justice administered under such a system.

Furthermore, Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights unequivocally prohibits torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The recent sentencing in Terengganu, as well as the broader implications of caning as a form of punishment, do contravene these international standards.

Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal, in his comments on the stoning of women to death for adultery, said: “Well, I would not be happy to see it, but it is God’s law and as a politician I am mandated to see His law implemented.”

His comments regarding the enforcement of stoning for adultery raise significant questions about the interpretation of religious texts and the application of such laws within a modern legal framework.

While the MP for Machang in Kelantan states his obligation to implement what he believes to be divine law, it is crucial to examine the sources and interpretations that inform such a stance.

Stoning, as a punishment for adultery, is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran but is derived from Hadiths – traditions relating to the words and actions of Prophet Muhammad.

These Hadiths have been interpreted by scholars over centuries and are not uniformly accepted or applied across the Muslim world. The application of stoning has been rare in Islamic history due to the stringent evidential requirements set by Islamic jurisprudence.

The debate around stoning, caning and such punishments, and its place in Islamic law reflects broader discussions on how religious laws are understood and integrated into state legislation.

It underscores the need for a nuanced approach to legal interpretation that considers historical context, scholarly discourse and contemporary human rights standards.

The comfort of a lawmaker with such a law, despite its complex religious and legal implications, suggests a need for deeper engagement with the principles of justice and mercy that are also central to Islamic teachings.

His stance on the implementation of harsh punishments, such as stoning for adultery, based on religious laws is deeply disconcerting to most women. If these are the beliefs of our lawmakers, what hope do women have for equal justice and treatment as equal citizens in this country?

While the Syariah Criminal Offenses (Takzir) (Terengganu) (Amendment) Enactment 2022 prescribes caning for certain offences, it is imperative to consider the foundational values of compassion, mercy and forgiveness that are central to Islamic teachings.

The case of Nurfifi Amira Nawi highlights a potential gender bias in the administration of justice, where women, particularly those from minority groups, impoverished backgrounds and single mothers, seem to bear the brunt of punitive measures.

Such practices not only affect the individuals involved but also reflect on the societal values and the state’s commitment to upholding human dignity.

Recent incidents, such as Nurfifi’s case, raise concerns about the selective and discriminatory application of these punishments.

The application of caning, particularly when directed at women from marginalised communities, is viewed as a violation of human rights and dignity.

Such practices perpetuate harmful stereotypes and degrade the victims, emotionally and psychologically.

Caning, regardless of gender, is inconsistent with the principles of justice, mercy and human dignity upheld by Islam and enshrined in Malaysia’s Constitution.

While the death penalty has been largely abolished in Malaysia, the persistence of caning sentences raises questions about the country’s commitment to human rights and religious tolerance.

Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself has criticised the use of caning, arguing that it contradicts Islamic principles of justice and mercy.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) advocates for a moratorium on all caning sentences, emphasising that such practices violate fundamental human rights.

It is imperative for Malaysia to reassess its approach to religious laws and punishments to ensure they align with the principles of justice, mercy and human dignity.

As Malaysia continues to navigate the complexities of its legal framework, it is crucial to engage in a dialogue that reconciles religious laws with universal human rights standards, ensuring that justice is served with equity and empathy. – SIS

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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